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NORMAL - Coach Jeff Sprouse has been waiting for his Flanagan High School girls basketball team to jell.

It might have happened in the 27th annual Class A state tournament quarterfinals Friday at Redbird Arena where the unranked Falcons dismantled No. 7-ranked Spring Valley Hall, 75-62.

"I'd have to say we played pretty well," said Sprouse, eyeing a statistics sheet every coach dreams of.

On it were such numbers as 53.3 percent field goal shooting for Flanagan and only 33.8 percent for Hall. Plus the Falcons dominated the boards, 47-30.

Also jumping off the stat sheet were the season-high 26 points by 6-foot Falcon senior Kelsie Laughlin, who had 19 in the first half to help Flanagan shoot 62.5 percent the first 16 minutes.

Laughlin's 6-1 junior sister, Megan, added 14 points, six blocks, five assists and five rebounds. Running the show as always for Flanagan was point guard Brittany Leonard, who finished with 15 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.

"The scouting report was stop the big three," said Hall coach Patrick Cinotte. "We didn't have an answer for the big three."

Flanagan (29-3) will try to keep No. 4-ranked Okawville (28-7) guessing in today's 12:45 p.m. semifinal. The third-place game is at 6:30 p.m. and the final at 8:15 p.m.

"Making the Final Four is just amazing," Kelsie Laughlin said. "This is a huge accomplishment for our team. This is a huge accomplishment for the community."

The Falcons combined for 23 assists to come within five of the tournament record.

"It's not about scoring on our team," Sprouse said. "It's about passing the ball, defending, getting rebounds and pushing that ball down the floor."

Flanagan hounded Hall into 17 turnovers. Falcon sophomore Anna Jones had team highs of five steals and eight rebounds to go with eight points and three assists.

"It looked liked they (Hall) started getting a little tired in the second quarter," said Sprouse, whose team overcame 20 turnovers of its own. "If they are getting tired, we want to go even faster if we can."

Hall was outscored in the paint, 50-20, but actually won the points-off-turnovers stat, 22-19.

"It was just a tremendous effort by these kids tonight," said Sprouse, after watching the second highest offensive output of the season from his squad. "This is an unbelievable team and they have each other's backs all the time."

Hall (29-4), an Elite Eight newcomer like Flanagan, had the Falcons' backs to the wall while taking a 9-4 lead. Flanagan shrugged and answered with a 20-7 run to lead 24-16 after one quarter.

"We didn't do a good job boxing out the first half," Cinotte said.

Back-to-back baskets by Kelsie Laughlin to open the second quarter gave Flanagan its biggest lead of the first half at 28-16. Kelsie Laughlin finished 9 of 11 from the field and 7 of 8 at the line.

"We missed that for about a month and a half of the season," said Spourse, who saw Kelsie Laughlin return from a knee injury Jan. 21.

First-team all-stater Kailey Klein, Hall's Cleveland State-bound star, scored nine of her game-high 29 points in the second quarter to pull the Lady Red Devils within 43-36 at intermission.

"They were really quick," said Klein, who was 11 of 22 from the field and 5 of 7 at the line. "We just didn't get back and that's what hurt us. It seemed like we couldn't get into any kind of flow."

Klein also had nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals.

"She's had a great career," Cinotte said. "She's had a great year. She was a joy to coach."

Back-to-back baskets by Klein to open the third quarter pulled Hall within 43-40 with 7:02 left in the period, but it would get no closer.

Flanagan had four different players score during a 7-0 surge to go up 50-40 and Hall couldn't get the gap under seven the rest of the way.

The Falcons' biggest lead was 69-50 following a Megan Laughlin 17-foot jumper with 4:36 left. Both coaches emptied their benches the final minute.

"What we have is called controlled chaos," Sprouse said. "It does look a little ragged from time to time, but we want to dictate tempo all the time."

Jen Andes and Jenna Luck each scored 14 points for Hall, which lost to its first Class A foe of the season. Andes had a team-high 10 rebounds.

The outcome avenged Flanagan's sectional final volleyball loss to Hall last fall.

"It was definitely nice to get back at them for volleyball," said Kelsie Laughlin, a Southern Illinois volleyball recruit. "They were a good team in volleyball and a good team in basketball, but this win feels awesome."


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